Column: Saving for College
By Treasurer David McRae
I have two interesting facts to begin today’s article with. First, the oldest millennials are turning 40. Second, about two-thirds of them are still paying off their student loans. Let those numbers sink in for a minute.
The student loan crisis is real, and it’s only growing. Between 2007 and 2017, the average student loan debt increased 58.5 percent. Unfortunately, it grew faster in Mississippi than in almost any state in the nation.
The average Mississippi student now graduates with $30,328 worth of debt. So, it shouldn’t surprise any of us when we learn that about 30 percent of young people choose to delay major life milestones – like buying a home, getting married, or starting a family – because of these loans.
This begs the question: What do we do about it? How do we protect the next generation from this burden of debt?
I do not support progressive proposals that force taxpayers to foot the bill for existing student loans. For one, it would be expensive, with costs ranging from $373 billion to $1.6 trillion. Secondly, it would fail to allow the free market to work, removing much of our ability to hold colleges and universities accountable for tuition spikes.
Instead, being grounded by the conservative principle of personal responsibility, I am simply working with families to better prepare for the cost of a modern-day college degree. More specifically, the State Treasury offers two Mississippi 529 plans to help families save.
The first, MPACT, allows you to lock in today’s rates and prepay your child’s college tuition, thereby protecting you from future increases. The earlier you start an MPACT plan, the easier the month-to-month financial lift will be. Visit Treasury.MS.gov/MPACT to learn more.
The second, MACS, allows you to put away money in a tax-advantaged savings account. This money is able to gain interest over time. Money from your MACS account can be used to pay for tuition, but it can also be applied to room and board expenses, books, and much more. An account like this has a very low bar for entry; just $25 can get you started! Learn more at Treasury.MS.gov/MACS.
As we continue to celebrate Financial Education Month this April, I encourage you to learn more about the opportunities we offer to financially prepare for college expenses. If you have any questions, please contact my office at 601-359-3600.